The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV) is fortunate to have the involvement of expert Committees and Industry Advisory Groups that help to deliver a vibrant calendar of events and competitions.
This includes the agricultural and rural competitions at Victoria’s largest and most iconic annual community event, the Royal Melbourne Show. The Committees play a key role in the facilitation of the Royal Melbourne Show competitions, with members selected by the RASV Board.
As volunteers, they make an incredible contribution to the RASV. One such person that continues to make a positive difference is the current RASV Sheep Committee Chair, Gavin Wall.
Gavin’s involvement and memories with the RASV, Royal Melbourne Show and Melbourne Showgrounds span almost 70 years.
To learn more about Gavin’s lifetime of involvement, we caught up with him to discuss his long affiliation and to learn more about his time as a student, exhibitor, teacher and committee member.
“My first memory of the Royal Melbourne Show is from 1956,” said Gavin.
“Whilst I did not attend, my Dad would take a load of wool from our property at Gowangardie to the wool store and then attend the Show to watch the Clydesdale judging.”
“He bred, worked and would show Clydesdale horses until about 1954,” said Gavin, “whilst at the show, Dad would pick up a ruler and a money box from the State Bank for my brother and two sisters,” said Mr Wall.
It was ten years later in 1964 when Gavin commenced his studies to become a professional wool classer at the RMIT; he undertook the practical elements of the course at Melbourne Showgrounds Centenary Hall.
“The wool classing and shearing were held in the southern half and the northern half was a sheepskin storage area - the aroma was a little on the nose!” Gavin remarked.
“I remember the beautiful Jarrah timber floor of Centenary Hall and during my studies, I was fortunate to assist with the judging of the Royal Melbourne Show Lamb’s Wool Competition, held in the Port Phillip Room - a tremendous competition with more than 600 entries.”
Gavin would gain his wool classing certificate and use the skills both on his own property as well as contracting throughout Shepparton, Nathalia, Dookie, Euroa, Woorama West, Moulamein (NSW), Rosedale (TAS) , Colliban Park and Golf Hill (the Barber family).
“I went wool classing professionally and did this in conjunction with running the farm so that I would start my day at 4:00am to feed the livestock, get in the car and drive into town to catch a bus to a shearing shed.”
“Over time, I pulled back on the wool classing and only did a few local jobs,” said Gavin, “but I maintain an interest in wool and teaching students about its many qualities.”
Spending more time on the farm, Gavin commenced exhibiting at the Royal Melbourne Show in the late 1960s. His first foray into exhibiting was in the Pig Competition, exhibiting pigs from the British Black and Large White breeds.
It was in 1976 that Gavin first commenced showing steers and had success in his first attempt, taking out one of the Champion Carcase awards.
In 1978, Gavin had what remains his most successful show, and completed a feat that will likely never been duplicated at any Royal Show.
“There were about 600 steers in the competition and from memory, I entered eight unled steers across all six weight categories, lightweight to heavyweight, only winning one first place in the live judging component.”
It was the announcement of the carcase results that provided Gavin with his greatest ever highlights throughout his long career exhibiting livestock. When the carcase results were read out, he received six firsts, one second and the Grand Champion Carcase.
“The winning carcases were hung in the Meat Hall, from memory I had 6 of the 8 or 9 beef carcases that were on display for the remainder of the Royal Melbourne Show.”
“It was one of the most unbelievable experiences I’ve ever had at a Show and I will never forget the excitement it brought me. To the best of my knowledge, this overall record has never been equalled or beaten.”
The following 20 years at the Royal Melbourne Show were particularly busy with Gavin showing steers alongside stud Limousin cattle and Suffolk sheep.
“My Limousin showing commenced in 1978 and the Suffolk showing slightly later in 1980.”
"I recall that the Limousin was housed in the old Number 4 Pavilion which was near the northeast corner on Lang’s Road and the old sheep pavilion was towards the south-west corner near the rail line”.
“I rode my old orange pushbike to commute between the two Pavilions, thereby saving time. The bike was painted bright orange and decorated with my stud signage, so nobody dared pinch it!”
Gavin continued to show cattle at shows throughout Australia until he sold his Shepparton property in November 1990, moving to a new property at Wagga Wagga. It was during this time that Gavin did not attend a Royal Melbourne Show for some ten years until he sold the property at Wagga Wagga and took on the role of Farm Manager at Ringwood’s Tintern Grammar.
Gavin’s passion for promoting agriculture was fulfilled in this role. Since 2003, he has worked with hundreds of Tintern students to prepare Romney and East Friesian sheep to compete at the Royal Melbourne Show Sheep Competition, along with wool for the Fleece Competition.
“Students learn a great deal about themselves from working with the sheep.”
“Even if they don’t go on to have a career in agriculture, learning the value of caring for animals and preparing them to the highest possible standard will have a positive impact on that student’s life.”
Gavin was asked to join the RASV Sheep Committee in 2010 by former chair and RASV Councillor, Bruce Starritt. Gavin’s presence on the committee, along with many new faces, made an immediate positive impact with the Royal Melbourne Show Sheep Competition tripling its participation in only a few short years.
Gavin would be elected as chair of the Sheep Committee in 2012, a position that he still holds today.
“I am incredibly proud to work with a committee that contributes to the betterment of the Royal Melbourne Show and listen to the comments of the exhibitors to make the event the best it can be.”
“As a volunteer, it is exceptionally pleasing to work with other sheep breeders and the event organisers at the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria to deliver a positive experience for the exhibitors and the thousands of people that get a glimpse at rural life from their time at the Royal Melbourne Show”.
It is over 56 years since Gavin first set foot on the Melbourne Showgrounds. In that time he has been a student, steward (sheep, wool and cattle), exhibited pigs, sheep, cattle, steers and wool, judged wool and junior judging competitions, been an inspector of sheep and cattle and served as member and chair of the RASV Sheep Committee.
The RASV and the Royal Melbourne Show have celebrated more than 150 years of success due to the volunteering efforts of people like Gavin Wall.
On behalf of all RASV members, exhibitors and supporters, we thank Gavin for his continued service to furthering Victorian agriculture, the RASV and the Royal Melbourne Show.